Understanding BidIndex and Accounting for 'Momentum': The 2018 Olympic Bids

On Wednesday, GamesBids.com released an update to the 2018 version of BidIndex that demonstrated a close race between PyeongChang and Munch while Annecy lags behind.

As many of you already know, BidIndex is a proprietary tool used by GamesBids.com to attempt to gauge an Olympic bid campaign where results are otherwise hidden until the final vote. BidIndex results are calculated by comparing the bid against a model of past successful bids and determining how closely they correlate. The assumption is that voting International Olympic Committee (IOC) members follow statistical voting patterns and trends based on a bid’s fundamentals.

There are over 100 fundamentals evaluated by the model including things such as venue compactness, budgets, climate and geography. BidIndex is continuously updated and improved after each campaign. But what’s important to remember is that it is not critical how well a bid does with that fundamental, it’s how closely it matches past winning bids.

For instance, one category examines the amount and value of new construction required. The IOC speaks out about environmental sustainability and the reuse of venues – and they like to avoid risk, so you’d expect the members would favour bids that have less construction required. But in reality the IOC tends to elect bids that require more construction, according to our analysis.

What often gets lost in that seemingly mundane list of numbers that get published every few weeks is the story the numbers tell as the campaign progresses and as the numbers change. Glancing through previous years’ editions of BidIndex you’ll see that campaigns that build from their original foundations are usually more successful.

The chart at the top of the page shows the BidIndex results of the three bids starting from the beginning of the campaign until now. You’ll notice Annecy lies far behind the other bids and that the line bounces around, as if unstable. It is illustrating the slow start, the impact of a plan redesign and subsequent funding issues.

The lines for both PyeongChang and Munich have similar origins and follow similar upward trending paths until they almost meet as of Wednesday’s update. The Munich line depressed more than PyeongChang’s in the middle due to referendum and landowner issues but recovered after these were resolved. Both show clear signs of strong momentum late in the campaign.

In fact, they have both increased by similar margins from the start to the finish. PyeongChang is ahead by 0.34, but does that mean they’ll finally win their bid after three tries? Not necessarily.

First, 0.34 is a very small and insignificant margin. Both bids have scores normally assigned to eventual winners of their respective campaigns – over 65 points indicates that a bid is very strong. London scored 65.07 when that city won; Vancouver 65.31; Sochi 63.17 and Rio 61.42.

Currently, Pyeongchang has 66.17 and Munich 65.83.

Of the four previous bids campaigns, three of the winners finished at the top of their games – with their best BidIndex scores from the whole campaign occurring the final week. Interestingly, at the same time they only had the second best BidIndex scores of the candidates.

The exception is Rio; the winning Brazilian bid fell off slightly the final week but maintained the BidIndex lead – just as PyeongChang did Wednesday.

But the one thing Rio had in common with the other three past winners is that they all marked cumulative increases in the final weeks – they had momentum.

If you’ve been following BidIndex for the past 10 years you’ll be familiar with our disclaimer; “BidIndex doesn’t predict the winner, it only indicates the bid that is most similar to past winning bids.” This is true – but perhaps we were missing an element that would enable the model to be a more accurate forecaster.

From this analysis it is becoming clearer that a combination of a high BidIndex score and a measurement-of-momentum would have helped make better predictions.

Let’s look back at the past races for a moment.

For 2010 – Salzburg scored over a point higher in BidIndex but winning bid Vancouver posted more late gains in the campaign.

For 2012 – Paris was over one point ahead of winner London but was more than half a point off of its campaign high. London posted several late gains and had its best mark on the final week.

For 2014 – Winning bid Sochi finished second in BidIndex, almost 3 points behind PyeongChang, but achieved large gains in the final weeks and finally jumped from third to second just days before the election. The Russian city was the momentum winner.

For 2016 – Rio held a BidIndex lead over Chicago in the final months of the campaign but gave up late BidIndex momentum to the U.S. bid. But Rio started the campaign well back of the contenders and slowly built momentum throughout the entire campaign.

What’s common? The winning bids had high BidIndex scores, or BidIndex momentum, or both.

If we were to assign a BidIndex momentum number (BIM for short) to the 2018 candidates, both Munich and PyeongChang would score well, but Munich would have the edge. If we were to combine this with the actual BidIndex score where PyeongChang leads, it would get very close.

Using available precedents, PyeongChang 2018 is looking a lot like Rio 2016 – high scoring and consistent momentum to the end. Now can we predict that PyeongChang will win? Let’s leave it up to the IOC to decide.

In the meantime, we’ll get to work on a BIM number formula for the BidIndex 2020, to be released late 2011.